The most prominent voice any person in church leadership should hear is the voice of the Holy Spirit. That should be a given. Certainly, we should also listen to our family as well as our church family. The voices of other leaders within our churches are essential. What other voices are you hearing?
Here are five other helpful voices for those in church leadership:
1. The voice of peers
Isolation is too often an occupational hazard for those of us in vocational ministry. Through the years I have separated myself from peers over issues ranging from perceived competition to theological differences. But when I have allowed myself to develop collegial friendships with other ministers, the result has always been positive.
I have many acquaintances in ministry. In fact, a former ministry assistant ribbed me constantly because she thought I “knew” everybody. I don’t know everybody, but I have been around long enough that I have at least had a conversation or some other interaction with a lot of other pastors. I am constantly learning from them. Their voices are important and helpful for me.
But the most helpful voices are from my peers who are also close friends. I have a few of those. These are the guys I can call when I’m at the end of my rope. These are the guys I can call when I’m facing a really tough decision. These are the guys who will speak truth into my life, whether or not I want to hear it! Peers are helpful voices.
2. The voice of a mentor
A mentor is a trusted and experienced advisor. In the context of church leadership it is someone who is further down the road of experience than you. I am blessed to have had mentors throughout my ministry including former pastors Bill Montgomery, Travis Coleman and Tom Monroe.
In my first church, a rural family chapel in south Mississippi, a seasoned pastor who became our director of missions invested heavily in four of us young pastors. In my second church in suburban New Orleans, another veteran pastor reached out to me and began a friendship that has now stretched more than twenty-five years. He is now one of my primary mentors. We meet periodically for breakfast or lunch. I am thankful for the ministry of Joe McKeever in my life. I am equally thankful for another mentor, my pastor at Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, Danny Wood.
Everyone in church leadership needs the voice of a mentor. I am convinced of that truth. I need a mentor for perspective when I get stuck in the weeds of minsitry. I need a mentor for correction when I get off course. I need a mentor for wisdom when I’m not sure what to do. I need a mentor for encouragement when I’m ready to give up. Mentors are helpful voices.
3. The voice of the critic
Yes, those of us in church leadership need the voice of the critic. Please understand, this is not intended to give license to those who were born in the objective case and the kickative mood. Some people criticize like it’s their paying job. Some church members think that criticism is a spiritual gift, and they exercise it regularly. In the words of Bob Newhart, “Stop it!”
Still, the voice of the critic can be helpful. The voice of the critic helps me to check my motives. It helps me to verify that I am following the voice of the Holy Spirit. After all, I am a fallen and fallible human being. Sometimes the critic helps me to see things in a different way. Sometimes the voice of the critic helps me to change my mind. Critics can be helpful voices.
4. The voice of a counselor
The voice of the critic can be helpful, but sometimes it can cause those of us in church leadership to need the voice of a counselor! Actually, I am a proponent of ongoing counseling for all who are in vocational ministry. We pastors need to be self-aware. We need a healthy emotional IQ.
Several years ago I was approached by a licensed professional counselor. He was forming a peer counseling group for pastors in our area. Four of us met with him once a month. We shared our struggles. We shared our hurts. We shared our successes. And he helped us navigate our ministry roles with emotional health.
There is a lot of talk these days about church culture and staff culture. I have personally seen what can happen to a church when ministers are attempting to lead from a position of poor emotional health. We all have the potential to be there. The voice of a counselor can be incredibly helpful.
5. The voice of a consultant
I recently had a conversation with a pastor whose church is doing well. They are growing. They are relatively problem-free. There are some underlying issues that could impact their future, but nothing that is particularly concerning at the moment. Our conversation revolved around a major decision they will have to make in the next few months. Without giving the details, it’s the kind of decision that will determine the kind of church they are going to be for the foreseeable future. He was asking me to be an objective voice.
Often a consultant acts as an interventionist. There is a crisis, and the consultant is asked to be a mediator, a peacemaker, a problem solver, or a change agent. In my role as a consultant I often have the privilege of helping a church to see its present reality with fresh eyes. As an outsider I can usually see things they have overlooked. I can also help them consider options they may not have known were possible.
Some consultations focus on a specific area. I have consulted with churches to evaluate and develop worship services, guest services, facilities, mission strategies, as well evangelism and outreach strategies. These consultations are generally limited in scope, time and expense to the church.
The comprehensive consultation is an extended process that offers a high-level view of the church’s overall health and results in a greater understanding of the community as well as the church and a ministry plan that leads to greater effectiveness. Whether you are looking for a voice speaking to the big picture or something more specific, the voice of a consultant is a helpful voice.
These five voices can make a huge difference for pastors and church leadership who are leading well. How many of them are you listening to?